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Ranger 6



Ranger 6 was designed to achieve a lunar impact trajectory and to transmit high-resolution photographs of the lunar surface during the final minutes of flight up to impact. The spacecraft carried six television vidicon cameras, 2 full-scan cameras (channel F, one wide-angle, one narrow-angle) and 4 partial scan cameras (channel P, two wide-angle, two narrow-angle) to accomplish these objectives. The cameras were arranged in two separate chains, or channels, each self-contained with separate power supplies, timers, and transmitters so as to afford the greatest reliability and probability of obtaining high-quality video pictures. No other experiments were carried on the spacecraft. Due to a failure of the camera system no images were returned.

Spacecraft and Subsystems

Rangers 6, 7, 8, and 9 were the so-called Block 3 versions of the Ranger spacecraft. The spacecraft consisted of a hexagonal aluminum frame base 1.5 m across on which was mounted the propulsion and power units, topped by a truncated conical tower which held the TV cameras. Two solar panel wings, each 73.9 cm wide by 153.7 cm long, extended from opposite edges of the base with a full span of 4.6 m, and a pointable high gain dish antenna was hinge mounted at one of the corners of the base away from the solar panels. A cylindrical quasiomnidirectional antenna was seated on top of the conical tower. The overall height of the spacecraft was 3.6 m.

Propulsion for the mid-course trajectory correction was provided by a 224-N thrust monopropellant hydrazine engine with 4 jet-vane vector control. Orientation and attitude control about 3 axes was enabled by 12 nitrogen gas jets coupled to a system of 3 gyros, 4 primary Sun sensors, 2 secondary Sun sensors, and an Earth sensor. Power was supplied by 9792 Si solar cells contained in the two solar panels, giving a total array area of 2.3 square meters and producing 200 W. Two 1200 Watt-hr AgZnO batteries rated at 26.5 V with a capacity for 9 hours of operation provided power to each of the separate communication/TV camera chains. Two 1000 Watt-hr AgZnO batteries stored power for spacecraft operations.

Communications were through the quasiomnidirectional low-gain antenna and the parabolic high-gain antenna. Transmitters aboard the spacecraft included a 60 W TV channel F at 959.52 MHz, a 60 W TV channel P at 960.05 MHz, and a 3 W transponder channel 8 at 960.58 MHz. The telecommunications equipment converted the composite video signal from the camera transmitters into an RF signal for subsequent transmission through the spacecraft high-gain antenna. Sufficient video bandwidth was provided to allow for rapid framing sequences of both narrow- and wide-angle television pictures.

Mission Profile

Ranger 6 was launched into an Earth parking orbit and injected on a lunar trajectory by a second Agena burn. The midcourse trajectory correction was accomplished early in the flight by ground control. On February 2, 1964, 65.5 hours after launch, Ranger 6 impacted the Moon on the eastern edge of Mare Tranquillitatis (Sea of Tranquility) at 9.3866 N, 21.4806 E (impact site identified from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images). The orientation of the spacecraft to the surface during descent was correct, but no video signal was received and no camera data obtained. A review board determined the most likely cause of failure was due to an arc-over in the TV power system when it inadvertently turned on for 67 seconds approximately 2 minutes after launch during the period of booster-engine separation.

Total research, development, launch, and support costs for the Ranger series of spacecraft (Rangers 1 through 9) was approximately $170 million.

Alternate Names

  • 00747

Facts in Brief

Launch Date: 1964-01-30
Launch Vehicle: Atlas-Agena B
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral, United States
Mass: 381.0 kg
Nominal Power: 200.0 W

Funding Agency

  • NASA-Office of Space Science Applications (United States)


  • Planetary Science

Additional Information

Questions or comments about this spacecraft can be directed to: Dr. David R. Williams.


Selected References

Ranger 6 and 7, TRW, Space Log, TRW Space Technol., Lab., 4, No. 2 17-24, Redondo Beach, Calif., 1964.

Mission operation reports (1963 - 1964), NASA, Off. of Programming, Off. of Prog. Rept., Wash., D.C., 1963-1964.

Other Ranger Information/Data at NSSDCA

Ranger 1
Ranger 2
Ranger 3
Ranger 4
Ranger 5
Ranger 6
Ranger 7
Ranger 8
Ranger 9
Ranger Home Page

Related Information/Data at NSSDCA

Lunar Exploration Home Page
Moon Home Page
Moon Fact Sheet

Other Sources of Ranger Information/Data

Lunar Impact: A History of Project Ranger

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